Cultivating Student Motivation: A Student Success Story

August 8, 2023

Caleb Galipeau

Lana Learn instructors in Vietnam see notable language acquisition progress as a result of cultivating student motivation.

We haven’t had many female students in our English language training program at Unit 871 in Hanoi. Two to be exact. Nevertheless, I’ve been fortunate enough to have the only female student in the program for this term, 2nd Lt. Thảo Nguyễn. As an educator, one of my missions is cultivating student motivation. Certain students, like Ms. Thảo , make it easy to do, and she has proven to be an exceptional student. Ms. Thảo shows great focus in class, readily participates in class activities, consistently turns in assignments, and offers meaningful contributions to class discussions. 

I’ve seen her efforts pay off, as she has shown steady improvement throughout the term. She came into our US Air Force-funded program with a placement test score of 55. On the recent mid-term exam, she received a score of 67, boasting a 26% growth rate in a two-month span. Additionally, this score increase bumped her up into a high-intermediate proficiency level. Her bi-weekly book quiz scores average an impressive 97%. This is well above the class average of 91%.

Personal Course Experience

Ms. Thảo comes from a small town in north-central Vietnam. Like many Vietnamese children, she started learning English at a young age. However, this was mostly reading and writing, and she told me that her Vietnamese English teacher could not really teach her speaking. Therefore, she didn’t learn how to speak English until her second year in university at about age 20. She enjoyed math and science in university, but after two years, she decided to switch to a military career. Currently, she is studying cyber security, and networks as a 2nd lieutenant in the Army.   

I asked Ms. Thảo to give some thoughts about the American Language Course (ALC) in particular. She told me that her superior officer from her previous posting had recommended she participate in the ALC for the purpose of improving her English proficiency. She asserted to me, “Nothing is sure in the future – so the more I learn, the better my prospects will be.”

Specific to our class, she said that grammar has been the easiest to learn because, “It’s very mathematical and systematic.” On the other hand, she feels that pronunciation is the hardest aspect. “Sometimes the sounds don’t match the spelling, and many sounds are not familiar to Vietnamese.  We have a hard time hearing final sounds like ‘-ed’ or ‘-s’ as well,” she told me.

Additionally, she thinks the class is exciting. One reason that she gave was, “I like your stories about historical figures, and the history of English too.” For example, I had given the class the life stories of Joe Foss and Hap Arnold. Also, because of my background in historical linguistics, I’m able to give the etymological history of certain words or phrases from English.  

Ms. Thảo is a motivated student and wants to learn as much as she can during this term at Unit 871, but she also mentioned that some people were not as enthusiastic. “A few students are required by their commanders to be here, so they might not be as interested. But I’m here by choice. I hope to be able to work abroad for the army, perhaps in the Vietnamese Medical Mission. So, I think learning English can help with that.” 

Ms. Thao Nguyen from ALC Class Alpha.
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